I’ve only missed one Solano Stroll in the last fifteen years. They are all pretty much the same, but I always enjoy them. It’s just a huge neighborhood party where I run into friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in a while, and enjoy the perfect weather. I missed the parade this year, but I’m sure it was fun.
Something that I saw a lot of this year was the prize wheel. Every other booth had one giving away lollipops, toys, pizza, and all kinds of things.
I bought more this year than I normally do, but I ate less. And I had no sweets. (Despite my love for funnel cakes.) I didn’t even take a free sample at the Brownies to Die For booth. But I’m a sucker for good balsamic vinegars, so I got a 4-pack. I know it may sound strange, but the chocolate balsamic vinegar was so rich and delicious (okay, I did have samples there) that I can’t wait to buy strawberries to put it on.
From the cotton scarves and adorable kiddy hats at the usual Tibetan gift shop booths—yes, multiple Tibetan gift shop booths—to the 1000-thread count sheets for $39.99 and any book for a dollar at the Albany library booth, there was plenty there to buy. I’m willing to bet that over a thousand pair of earrings were available.
Since it’s an election year, the local candidates and upcoming measures had their promoters, and various government agencies had a presence there as well.
Most of the Solano eateries had some sort of special going on, either to lure people off the main drag into their restaurants or via a take-out station. Fonda’s was open for lunch and had tables outside in front of their restaurant. There were two Jamba juices. And then there were the food vendors that show up at every carnival and county fair selling kettle corn, roasted corn, cotton candy, and BBQ. The oddest-named food item that I saw advertised was dubbed a “chicken lollipop,” but I’m guessing that if I had seen one, it would have looked a lot like chicken satay.
Several churches, Hillel, and the Atheist Society staked out their spots along Solano. Every school, public and private, was represented. Albany High cheerleaders were raising money for the Cougars, Thousand Oaks Elementary parents had their fund-raising booth, and a Crowden student was playing a violin.
On the top end were all things Berkeley: the Berkeley Historical Society, the Berkeley Disaster Preparedness Neighborhood Network, Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, and of course, Berkeleyside. On the Albany end were huge slides, rock-climbing walls, and a karaoke booth courtesy of the Mel-o-Dee Lounge.
Dance offerings included international folk dances, belly dancers, and Katie’s Dance Studio, who always puts on a professional show of kids from tiny tots to teen doing tap, jazz, and hip-hop. And they win the award for most costume changes in one performance.
Music was heard on every corner and in between, from the Minor Seven Jazz combo (my guess is that except for the teen drummer, they were all twelve or younger) to the bluesy singer set up across from Pegasus to the guy who was singing and playing his guitar all by himself and probably didn’t realize that nobody could hear the guitar, making it essentially an a capella performance.
People are generally happy and pretty mellow at the Solano Stroll. It’s rare that I hear any discord. I did see a woman trip over a baby, but she apologized profusely, and you gotta wonder what that baby was doing sitting in the middle of the street…
It was a great day to catch up with neighbors, buy a hat, sit on a curb to eat lunch, and get in some great people watching. Next year will probably have much of the same offerings as this year, and I will happily go again.